How this post-LASIK dry eye and cancer survivor creates hope and builds community

How this post-LASIK dry eye and cancer survivor creates hope and builds community

A story of hope and resilience, this social media influencer opens up about her complications with LASIK, struggles with dry eye, and how she remains hopeful for the future

Lexy Mencos (@lalexyy) has become an influencer on Instagram and TikTok, posting about her experiences with severe dry eye triggered by LASIK. Originally from Chicago, 29 year old Lexy Mencos enjoys spending time with her dog, playing video games with her husband, and dancing to salsa or anything Latin.

Despite amassing thousands of followers, Lexy doesn’t post content to build a following. She posts content to build community and help others who struggle with similar challenges. And it’s working - Lexy receives messages from people around the world responding positively to her stories and looking for advice on how to manage their own condition. We sat down with Lexy to learn more about her condition and how she remains hopeful for the future.

Q: The LASIK procedure has had a dramatic effect on your life. What happened?

Well, on top of my dry eye, I'm also a cancer survivor. I had cancer back when I was 21 which comes with its own side effects. But after my health stabilized, I decided to pursue vision correction via LASIK.

I opted for LASIK because 1) my insurance covered it, and 2) I wasn't able to tolerate my contacts anymore (which I now know was the early onset of dry eye). At the time, I had been hearing great success stories from family and friends who had LASIK done, so I decided to move forward with the procedure to eliminate my dependency on glasses and contacts. I even spoke to a fellow cancer survivor who had the LASIK procedure and consulted with several doctors who all assured me that moving forward with the procedure was a safe bet.

About 8 months after my procedure, my dry eye symptoms started. They were bad, really bad. I was in constant pain, nothing was helping. I gradually became dependent on preservative free drops every few seconds. I remember thinking, how am I supposed to live the rest of my life like this? There were days when I would finish work and go straight to bed at 6PM. Depressed, laying there, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to function. I went back to my LASIK doctor who assured me this was just part of the healing process. I went for second and third opinions. Each specialist kept writing me off telling me I was still healing from LASIK. They would tell me to just give it a few more months or try a different over the counter drop. 

It wasn't until I was so desperate, I joined a LASIK complication support group on Facebook to connect with other people who were experiencing similar situations, and to ask for help. It saved me.

Q: When did things turn around for you?

At the peak of my pain, I decided to quit my job and live off of my savings so I could focus on finding an eye doctor who could help me. I saw provider after provider after provider without success. Finally someone in the LASIK complication support group on Facebook posted about Autologous Serum tears and the benefits towards minimizing inflammation and healing nerve damage from LASIK. When I Googled it to find a local provider, I stumbled upon Dr. Robert Gerowitz.

When I first tried to get an appointment with Dr. Rob, the receptionist told me he wasn’t accepting new patients. I pleaded with her over the phone to squeeze me in - I asked for just 10 minutes of his time. I think they could tell in my voice that I was desperate. Dr. Rob squeezed me in the very next day. It’s important to note that seeing Dr. Rob was out of network for me, so all my costs were incurred out of pocket. That's how desperate I was. 

I think I was blessed by God that I found Dr. Rob because he spent two hours with me during this first visit. After listening to my story, he was shocked that I was approved for the LASIK procedure. Having my history of cancer already makes me prone to dry eye and my prior difficulty with contacts was another clear sign I should never have had the procedure done.

Aside from being a wonderful doctor, it was relieving to have finally found someone who validated how I was feeling, not just how my eyes looked from an exam. Dr. Rob got me started on Regener-Eyes until we could get access to Autologous Serum tears. He also had me do blood work to rule out Thyroid issues, Sjögren's Syndrome, and other autoimmune conditions. I also tried Sclerals, Lotamax and a few other treatments but ultimately got access to the serum tears and decided that they were providing the best relief with the fewest side effects. Now I'm just doing serum tears eight times a day. While my dry eye still persists, things have stabilized a bit.

It has been a crazy journey, and the fact that I even had to go to an out of network doctor who didn’t specialize in post-LASIK dry eye, but chose to help me anyways, blows my mind. As a result of this experience, I advocate for myself a lot better now and do my research so I can more effectively work with my doctor in managing my dry eye on an ongoing basis.

Q: When was the moment you decided to start sharing your LASIK story on Tiktok and Instagram?

When I started learning about all of the side effects from LASIK, I decided I needed to get information about the risks of the procedure out there to others. I was just so angry, and I think I still am. People deserve to know the risks and make a fully informed decision if the procedure is right for them.

Once I started posting about my dry eye experience, I started getting messages like “I just got LASIK. Please help me. What do I do? Where do I go? How are you able to function?” Connecting with people and helping them along their own journey with this disease, that's become my motivation to share my story. Through social media, I have met so many wonderful people, and ultimately we just want to help each other. Having people that I can reach out to that understand what I'm going through, it helps so much. And knowing that I can help somebody else who is similarly going through a difficult time - I guess it makes me feel stronger, less alone, more hopeful. 

Q: What would be a piece of advice you would have shared with your younger self knowing what you know now?

After going through this experience, I decided to become more intentional with my life. I realized if I have to be uncomfortable with my eyes, I'm at least going to work in a field where I'm doing good for the world. Ultimately I decided to go back to work for a company that was mission based and now help people form families by way of fertility treatments. What's better than that? While my dry eye is difficult at times, if none of this would have happened, I think I would have remained stuck in my old job or would have just kept climbing the corporate ladder - miserable in any role I would have had. For this, I am grateful.

My advice to my younger self would be to just love myself, love every part of me, accept every part, accept the glasses, accept everything. Looking back, I never needed the LASIK. So that's what I would tell my past self: You're great. Don't change anything.

Be sure to follow  Lexy at @lalexyy for all her content about her journey with dry eye post LASIK.

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